Chasing the remaining Major crown he was missing, Roger Federer finally went all the way at Roland Garros in 2009 to complete a Career Grand Slam. Losing a couple more finals to his greatest rival Rafael Nadal, Federer decided to skip Roland Garros between 2016-2018 and focus on the grass season.
The Swiss returned to Paris in 2019 and reached the semi-final, facing Nadal in another Roland Garros classic and failing in straight sets. Speaking about the match in a recent interview, Federer said it was one of their strangest encounters due to the wind, with many shots that they usually can’t play.
At that time, Federer didn’t know if he would return to Paris again. Still, he decided to give it another shot this June, returning at Roland Garros and hoping for another deep run ahead of Halle and Wimbledon. Two years ago, Rafa beat Roger 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes, advancing into the 12th final against Dominic Thiem.
It was Nadal’s 14th win on clay against Federer from 16 matches and tenth in 13 Major encounters, moving into the title clash against Dominic Thiem. Losing the previous five duels against Roger and seeking the first win since the Australian Open 2014, Rafa was determined to finally outplay a great rival and extend his Parisian dominance, securing the 92nd triumph from 94 matches at his favorite tournament!
Nadal hit 33 winners and 19 unforced errors, facing four break chances and getting broken only twice to mount the pressure on the other side. Roger needed much more than that to challenge the greatest clay-courter in his first semi-final in Paris since 2012, firing 25 winners and 34 errors that usually plague his chances over Rafa on clay.
The Spaniard converted six out of 16 break opportunities to control the scoreboard, defending superbly and finding an open court from challenging positions to neutralize Roger’s attacks and keep the Swiss outside the comfort zone as much as possible.
Roger Federer recalled the 2019 Roland Garros semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal.
The conditions were harsh and windy, especially in the first set, where they both struggled to find the rhythm and impose their shots. Things improved from set number two, and it was Nadal who took the upper hand from the closing stages, playing well on both serve and return to leave Federer far behind and advance into the second final in a row after conquering the title in Rome in May.
Opening a 3-0 lead, Rafa lost the advantage in the middle of the opening set before scoring another break at 3-2 when Roger’s forehand landed into the net. The Spaniard completed the opener with a hold in game nine before the Swiss raised the level at the beginning of the second set to forge a 2-0 lead.
Wasting a game point, Roger got broken in game three after Rafa’s forehand winner. The defending champion had momentum again, holding after deuce in game eight and never looking back. He broke Roger in the next game from 40-0 down, taking five points in a row and clinching the pivotal break with a volley winner that proved to be the crucial moment of the entire encounter.
Holding at love in game ten, Nadal moved two sets to love up after an hour and 45 minutes, determined to get the job done in the third. Federer had nothing more left in the tank, unable to end Nadal’s streak or find a way of imposing his strokes and changing the match’s course.
Nadal broke in games three and five and sealed the deal with a hold at 5-2 for yet another final in his kingdom. “It was a good tournament. I played well. This match against Rafa was, of course, completely dead with the wind.
I saw everything against him, but it was quite funny playing against Rafa in these conditions. There are some exchanges that you normally can’t play at all. Afterward, I wasn’t disappointed. Sometimes, I even laughed internally at certain points that we played.
I was happy to have played in Paris. At that time, I didn’t know if I even wanted to replay Roland Garros in my career,” Roger Federer said.